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Lisa Raitt on taking care of her husband as he struggles with young-onset Alzheimer’s

Bruce Wood and Lisa Raitt at their home in Moffat, Ont. Raitt recently shared a video of an agitated Wood in the middle of the night, in order to highlight the pressure faced by those caring for loved ones with young-onset Alzheimer's. (Samira Mohyeddin/CBC)

In the early hours of the morning, Bruce Wood will wake up next to his wife, former Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, and start muttering.

“I’ll say to myself: ‘Please go back to sleep.’ But if he doesn’t, he’ll start jabbering to himself, and it’ll get louder and louder and louder,” said Raitt, who held several cabinet positions under Stephen Harper.

“Then he’ll jump out of bed, and then he’ll start fighting with the bed sheets or fighting with a phantom person in the room,” she told The Current host Matt Galloway.

In 2016, at the age of 56, Wood was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s. Earlier this month, Raitt shared a short video of his distress on Twitter.

She said she’s sharing her experience publicly to let other caregivers know it’s OK “to tell the really bad stories.”

“You suffer in this, silent and alone,” she said. “What I wanted to do is bring it out of the shadow.”

In the last two weeks, Wood’s distress has crossed into violence, Raitt said.

“He was becoming so agitated, I thought I had to distance myself,” said the former MP, who represented the ridings of Halton, Ont., from 2008 to 2011 and Milton, Ont. between 2011 and 2019.

“And I came down to sleep on the couch, and he found me and he just punched me in the head.”

Wood’s doctors have since adjusted his medication to keep him calm, she said.

“The reality is he’s six-foot-two, he’s 250 pounds, and he can kill somebody,” Raitt said.

“It’s awful because he’s a good man. So, you tell yourself it’s the disease.”

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, roughly 16,000 people in Canada have young-onset dementia — an estimated eight per cent of all dementia diagnoses nationwide. A case is considered young-onset if diagnosed before the age of 65, though it affects some people as young as in their 30s.

Read more on the CBC.

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